Today is random acts of kindness day and in a world that can encourage us to compare and feel inadequate, I want to remind you of how important it is to be kind to yourself. I also want to remind you that a picture or a smile can say a thousand words or hide a thousand more. I was out for lunch recently and I took a picture of the wonderful people with me. However we decided that it would be best I didn’t post what looked like a very happy image. We talked about the fact that it may well leave the wrong impression, because things have been hard for them. Whilst they looked happy in the moment, poor mental health can be easy to hide.
It got me thinking about two years ago when I wasn’t very well myself. The above image was taken then. I think I look pretty happy, yet a huge part of me was broken, restless and confused. Back then I had so many messages from people on social media, telling me that my life looked perfect. Lots of exciting and fun things were happening and on the surface life did look pretty amazing. But I was very unwell and lacked self awareness. Whilst I feel it’s so important to move on, it can also be a beautiful thing to look back at hard times and write yourself a wee letter. What would yours say? I’ll write a small one now to get us started – feel free to borrow it.
Two years from now
Two years from now you are going to be so much clearer and happier. You are going to be even more thankful for all the little things. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. Embrace all the colours. Allow yourself to feel so that you can heal. Don’t suppress, ignore or deny your feelings. But go easy on yourself and take your time.
You can be impatient, relentless and determined but remember that growth has no finish line. Your inquisitive nature will want to look for answers. Don’t rush those either.
In a noisy world full of opinions, you must get still every day so you can make your own.
You will appreciate hugs, holding your kids little hands and time in nature like never before. You will keep swimming. There will be days in recovery that you feel withdrawn and cynical but that kindness and positivity will always be in there. Be kind and gentle with yourself so that you can be kind and gentle to others. You will learn to embrace all the things that help to bring that out and calm your anxiety. Like cold water, writing, singing, playing, praying, moving, music, adventures and connection. Even when your mind wants to judge you will hear that still, calm voice whispering ‘love wins’. You will remember how important it is to stay grounded and use all the tools you have learned to do so. And over time you won’t be afraid to fly again.
A picture can say a thousand words and hide a thousand more. Never compare your story to someone else’s picture. You got this
(Today, 2 years later)
Here are some things that have helped me to get the mojo back.
1. Moving my body. I love keeping it simple and fun, a good twerk around the house, not taking myself too seriously is a wonderful mojo injection. On harder days, I remember when my body felt really heavy when I was on strong medication. Going for a run felt impossible as I literally felt weighted down with drugs. Learning to push through gave me a huge boost. Just get out that door and build up slowly. The couch to 5K app is also great to have a cheerleader shouting you on. Ask someone close to you to push you up the hill or give you a helping hand. Listen to encouragement from people you meet on the street, focus on the kindness all around us. Or a great playlist can work wonders. I ran a marathon in 2016 and several half marathons after this but trust me, even a 1K in recovery felt like a maraton some days. So be kind to yourself. Just get outside, take the first step.
2 – Make sure you tune into motivational podcasts and read good books, and consume content that will uplift you when your head is noisy. Embrace the quiet too and use these moments to breathe, stretch, journal, release, surrender, meditate, pray.
3 – Remember when you are in recovery that the mind can be more judgemental than normal. Remind yourself that those thoughts are not real and that they will pass. When we are happy, being kind to others and ourselves is effortless. So make your happiness a priority.
4 – Talk things out with those close to you. Or join a support group. Don’t keep the feelings trapped away.
5 – Cold water therapy is a wonderful thing, just take your time and build it up slowly. The buzz after a cold dip helps to clear away anxious thoughts, bringing you into the present moment. As does being in the water. You could start slowly with a cold shower. I found that during times that felt mundane with covid restrictions, that the cold water adventures have helped to spice up life. It’s a great way to feel alive.
6 – Being in nature reminds us of our true nature. You are a natural beauty, even when the world makes you feel otherwise. Get out there, even on rainy days, wrap up and get some fresh air. It’s amazing how the simple act of getting out and spending time in nature can boost us up. A couple of weeks ago, I was still feeling pretty horrible post covid but it was my end of isolation/freedom day so I simply had to get out for a walk. We went for a family walk for around an hour and a half. The views were stunning up the hill that we walked. At first I felt weak and tired but by the end of the walk I felt refeshed and invigorated. I tell myself this every day when I don’t feel like I have the time to get out for something as simple as a walk.
7 – The little habits add up, like taking 5 minutes to chop and throw things in a pan and making a nourishing homemade soup or seeing the little joys in every day. Start small by doing one nice thing for yourself and someone else every day. Add in little habits.
8 – Self compassion can take practice. Make it part of your daily routine. Challenge the negative thoughts, be curious about them. When I notice negative thoughts coming in I will repeat things like:
This isn’t who I really am.
Focus on being happy instead of judging.
Let it go.
Stop trying to get all the answers.
Sometimes I have a laugh at my thoughts too without judging and simply say:
Where did that even come from? Pipe down love. Keep it simple, fun and light where possible.
You got this.
Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and keynote speaker, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate. She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio. Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all. She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people.